More people than ever are interested in booking sustainable travel but knowing how to avoid ‘tourism greenwash’ can be hard.
The appetite for climate-conscious travel is certainly growing - but many looking for more sustainable options say they don’t know where to start.
New data from Google shared at Travel Weekly’s Sustainability Summit shows that a majority of global travellers want to make their trips more environmentally friendly. The tech giant found that 82 per cent of people said sustainability was more on their minds than the pandemic.
It recorded a 70 per cent rise in the number of people searching for sustainable travel options in 2021.
But the research also found that nearly 40 per cent of respondents didn’t know how to make their travel choices greener.
It can be difficult for travellers to “sift through the tourism greenwash,” says Justin Francis, CEO of Responsible Travel.
“Not all sustainable labels are what they seem, so identifying truly responsible trips takes a bit of research. You have to ask questions or request policies on anything from animal welfare to what’s really ‘eco friendly’ - and understand the warning signs to look for.”
But Francis says a good general rule of thumb is that any responsible operator should be happy to answer all your questions before you book. And they will have transparent policies ready to share.
In response to the increased demand for sustainable travel, he says companies need to make things easier by doing the legwork for customers including screening suppliers and holidays and improving transparency.
So if you are looking to choose a holiday that is kinder to the planet, here are a few tools to get you started.
For lower emissions flights: Google
Google recently updated its maps and travel search platforms to include carbon emissions from flights. Each trip is labelled either higher, typical, lower or unknown when compared to the average amount of CO2 for that route. Those with a lower impact are given a green badge to make it clear they are the more environmentally-friendly option.
The search giant calculates the estimated amount of emissions your flight will generate using data from the European Environment Agency, alongside information about what plane you will be flying in, its route, speed and altitude.
Google says it will keep looking at this data in the future to make sure estimates are as accurate as possible for those using the tool to search for flights. Find out more here.
For last-minute sustainable breaks: Staze
This subscription service only allows you to book your trip 14 days before you leave meaning it is perfect for last-minute trips. But last-minute doesn’t have to equal big environmental impact.
Staze has calculated the carbon footprint of more than three million hotels around the world and allows you to filter nearly half a million choices by their impact on the planet. The company also says that its prices include carbon removal, through projects like cleaner cooking stoves in Kenya and wind farms in Turkey.
Each one is vetted and users receive monthly reports that show exactly which projects their stays have supported. Find out more here.
For the overall package: Choose a responsible travel agency
If you want to make booking a sustainable trip as easy as possible, then choose a travel agency that does all the hard work for you. There are a number of these companies out there including Responsible Travel.
Co-founded by CEO Justin Francis, it helps travellers minimise their impact on both local people and nature.
“As an industry, we can make it much easier for travellers to source responsible holidays,” says Francis. He adds that this was part of the reason he founded Responsible Travel - to help people make more informed choices.
Styling itself as an “activist company”, Francis explains that they screen suppliers against responsible travel criteria then share that information with customers who book. Travellers are also asked to share feedback on how exactly they felt their holiday benefitted local communities and the environment.
Reviews from verified customers are then published for everyone to see, allowing them to choose a trip based on real experiences. You can find out more about how to book through Responsible Travel here.
For those looking to avoid flights: Byway
All of Byway’s trips in the UK and Europe are 100 per cent flight-free. This company shows you travel and accommodation packages away from traditional tourist hotspots using trains, bikes, buses and ferries.
Every part of the trip is taken care of, from how you get there and where to stay, all the way to local, sustainable businesses that you can visit while you’re away.
The idea came from founder Cat Jones’ frustration at how difficult it was to book a family holiday in Europe without getting on a plane. After recommending journeys she and her family had taken to friends, Jones founded Byway to make sustainable, multi-trip holidays easy.
The company also has a 100 per cent COVID refund guarantee, in case lockdown or travel restrictions mean your trip can no longer go ahead.
You can find out more about booking a trip with Byway here.